By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – Mayor Sara Duterte said she has suggested to the national government to require all passengers to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests before they are allowed to board any aircraft as commercial flights are expected to resume soon.
During her interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Tuesday, Duterte said the epidemiologists here feared that passengers infected by the coronavirus, but who may be asymptomatic, might be allowed to board flights undetected, resulting in the spread of the infection in other areas.
She said the passengers must be required to present a negative test result using RT-PCR, and conducted two to three days prior to the scheduled flight to ensure infected passengers could not fly out.
She said the testing should be done before departure, and not only upon arrival because it could risk the entire crew of the aircraft, airport personnel, and other passengers of getting infected with COVID-19.
She said the city has been subjecting all arriving passengers at the Davao International Airport on sweeper and mercy flights to health screening, done using a set of criteria adopted by the local government and an antibody-based rapid diagnostic test (RDT).
She said those who fail the health screening are brought to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for confirmatory test using RT-PCR, while the rest who pass proceed to mandatory 14-day home quarantine.
She said, however, other provinces in Davao region have fetched infected passengers from those flights back to their hometowns.
“We wrote the DOTr (Department of Transportation) over the weekend and suggested that in Davao, we will prepare testing before departure, so all airports must require testing (RT-PCR) before departure so that passenger who is positive will not be allowed to board,” she said.
She also proposed that a Department of Health (DOH) set up a testing facility in the airport to do rapid tests.
“Can a DOH-accredited laboratory put up a testing facility in the airport? They should test there. Now, if you test positive, you will not be allowed to check-in and you will be brought immediately to SPMC or another (COVID-19) laboratory for (confirmatory) test. You will wait for the result whether you are negative or positive. If your RT-PCR test is negative, you can use that for your check-in the next day or two days after. If you are positive, you will stay and you will be put under quarantine,” she said.